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Digital Bangladesh

Digital Bangladesh

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Published by: Dr.Touhid Muhammed Faisal kamal on Dec 29, 2009
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11/04/2013

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Digital Bangladesh:
A Prime ministers dream Vs Understanding thePresent
Prof. Syed Ahsanul Alam,Chairman-Center for good governanceUniversity of Chittagong
 
Ironical to note that the term "Digital Bangladesh" still remains as a misunderstood concept tomany. Due to the strong desire of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina the vision has been acceptedwith interest in the Government, private sector and as well as the politician. If I have notmisunderstood Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, by using the term Digital Bangladesh ------- sheemphasized on using ICT in Governance and service delivery organs both in the public andprivate sector.1. Digital Bangladesh for Coping with globalization
 
The forces of globalization and technology are continuously reshaping our economy. The impactof information and communication technology (ICT) are giving rise to a new type of economy ----the knowledge based economy. Technology has had a crucial role in defining today's globalizedmarket structure. In this context, Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina has given the firststep by declaring her vision towards "Digital Bangladesh". Despite the fact that, many stillconsider this to be the dream of a Prime Minister, while others think the concept is yet vague for consumption of our mass people, yet I believe Bangladesh can make steady stride towardsdigitalization if guided by strategist capable to formulate short time, midterm & long term planningfor the digitalization process. In the light of our previous lesson learnt the concept of "DigitalBangladesh" must be understood clearly, practically and pragmatically in the context of aeconomy like Bangladesh. It is necessary to mention that in the short run "Digital Bangladesh"aims at E-Governance and service delivery through utilizing ICT. But the vision "DigitalBangladesh" encompasses the whole arena of a knowledge based Digital Economy. Bangladeshcan't afford to achieve that goal in the short and medium run. I invite thinkers, technocrats and ITexperts to focus on the short run issues and measures the present Government should undertaketo digitalize Bangladesh. It is important to start digitalizing service delivery organs like Police, Citycorporation, Land Department, Tax Department, PDB, Water supply, Gas and other authoritiesalso including sectors like Banking, Insurance, Customs, Tax Collection. Urgent steps should betaken to digitalize institutions like Bangladesh Bank, NBR, PSC, UGC, EC, ACC and other vitalinstitution to go a step ahead towards Good Governance.2. Phasing out the Digitalization Process
 
What is important for the planner is the ability to explore all the possibilities of phasing out adigitalization process for Bangladesh. We can share the experience of developing & neighboringcountries. India has made giant steps towards acquiring competence in Information and
 
Communication Technology (ICT). The success story of the Indian IT industry bears testimony tothis. However, technical competence is a pre requisite for digitalization of Bangladesh economy.Everybody knows Information technology reduces costs, saves time, improves efficiency, raisescomfort levels and increases the confidence of citizens. Hence, developing countries such asBangladesh should leverage the power of IT to leapfrog poverty barriers, and promote economicand social development. But we have to keep in mind that technology (ICT) alone won't fix or alleviate economy, nor guarantee dynamic service delivery to citizens. It is important tounderstand that ICT facilities Good Governance but ICT itself don't guarantee Good Governance.3. Slow Paced IT revolution and the Digital Divide
 
Even with the slow paced IT revolution in Bangladesh, around 50% or more of our villages arestill without telephones. 75% or more of our population resides in the rural areas and do not haveadequate exposure to technology. A vast majority lives below the poverty line and 35% or moreare illiterate. Like any other developing country a vast majority of Bangladesh population will bevulnerable to the risk of getting marginalized in the IT revolution. Logically citizens will be gettingdivided into people who do and people who don't have access to ICT and the capability to use -modern information technology.This divide exists and shall remain to exists between the cities and rural areas, between the richand the poor, and between the educated and uneducated.4. Digital Bangladesh - the misconception
 
Digital Bangladesh does not necessarily mean one man one computer. For the near futureneither does it means Internet literacy for 100% population. But it indicates towards networkingwith all administrative units like, Upazila, Districts and Division. It definitely means bringing morecitizens to the Information Highway- giving a bigger mass of the population access to information.Digital Bangladesh should be the first step towards the death of distance particularly for the ruralpeople with the secretariat or any other powerhouse with whom the citizens are involved for Governance.
 
However we have to keep in mind the following assumption :
 
i) Bringing 17 crore citizens (approx) on the information high way will not be easy.ii) Bringing whole public sector under a network will not be easy.iii) Bringing economic units of private sector under a common platform will not be easy.The aim of Digitalization in the first phase should be :i) Ensure easier access to government forms and documents by citizens.ii) Ensure submission of applications, forms, and complains electronically.iii) Ensure greater access to information by citizen charter and websites.iv) Ensure University admission process to be digitalized except the admission test.v) Ensure greater connectivity by wireless internet.
 
5. Digitalization Process - Pin Pointing Priority Sectors
 
Sustainable progress can be achieved, only if we bring this vast majority of Bangladesh ruralpeople on the information highway, and thus, benefit from the increased productivity thatInformation and communication technology offers. The anytime-anywhere and death of- distanceparadigms of technology will enable better leveraging of scarce resources such as healthcare andeducation, agriculture and other service delivery organizations.To create ownership of digital Bangladesh by the general public it should focus in promoting thefollowing broad areas:
 
i) Healthii) Education, ,iii) Agricultureiv) Other Service Delivery Organization
 
To enhance citizens' participation and promoting accountability , transparency and efficiency ingovernance process.
 
i) HealthIn Bangladesh, 51% of the population does not have access to essential drugs. Further, there areonly 26 physicians per 100,000 population compared to 279 for US and 162 for China. ICT canhelp bring medical expertise to Upazilla and District headquarters. Tele-medicine, for instancemay link healthcare centers in remote locations, through satellites, with super specialty hospitalsat major towns / cities. Thus it can bring connectivity between patients at remote end, withspecialist doctors, for medical consultations and treatment. For example a few Health care center in Bangladesh uses tele-medicine to bring health-care facilities from super specialty center abroad.
 
ii) EducationDistance education has tremendous potential to spread learning in any country. Elearning is acost-effective way of providing education at a distance. This is especially important consideringthat around 80% of our illiterate population are from the rural areas.In this context, it is essential that the government, the industry, NGOs and academia formspartnership to accelerate the Digitalization process. Together, they need to create an 'enablingenvironment' for the proliferation of ICT in Bangladesh. There are some basic steps thatBangladesh needs to foster online education to be offered by Open University and our NationalUniversity.iii) AgricultureSince more than half of our population is employed in agriculture, our planner should put ICT togood use in agriculture. For example, India has led the use of remote sensing satellite informationfor locating irrigation projects. The Internet has been effectively used in some of the villages toensure effective dissemination of agricultural commodity price information. The National DairyDevelopment Board (NDDB) in India has used IT effectively, to enhance competitiveness of thedairy industry and to provide benefits to the rural masses. Towards digital Bangladesh we canuse the Indian experience of using ICT in different sectors of the agriculture.
 
iv) Other Service Delivery OrganizationIn the public sector, ICT can be used for more efficient governance. In a developing country likeBangladesh, there is a significant need for introducing transparency and efficiency in governmentoperations. Through E-governance, the service delivery organization can effectively deliver their service to citizens. By separating the delivery of services from decision-making, the chances of corruption are reduced. Further, E-governance reduces the time in interactions with thegovernment. For instance,The Internet can be used as a cheap communication channel that governments can use to reachout to their citizens and vice versa. For instance, citizens can monitor the progress of variousgovernment initiatives online. ICT also enables effective planning. Simulation can be used as agood tool for what-if analysis. It helps the citizens understand the parameters of public systems(over a period of time) like pollution levels, provision of basic infrastructure - schools, water,electricity, health care, commuting times, etc.
 
6. Increased Connectivity
 

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